Finchampstead FC look set to lose their Hellenic League status due to the uncertainty surrounding their future as a step 6 club with the Football Association looking to impose stricter ground gradings.
Finch have spent 17 years as a Division 1 East club and prior to that were a Chiltonian Premier Division side but look set to lose that status despite the efforts of the Hellenic League to keep them.
The Memorial Ground that serves as Finch’s home is primarily a cricket pitch and the club have no prospect of being able to install the hard standing, seats and floodlights that would be required to get a suitable grading.
We understand that Finchampstead could have stayed as a Hellenic club but this would depend year on year which clubs were eligible for promotion from the Thames Valley Premier League and other leagues at step 7 which would create annual uncertainty and speculation at the club.
A post on the website Finchampstead Football Club Extra states: “The Reserves who appear to have finished 2nd in Division 2 of the Thames Valley Football League will now represent Finchampstead FC on Saturdays as the First team.”
Ground Grading Background
The FA originally announced revised rules that all step 6 clubs had to obtain a G ground grade by 31st March 2016 to enable them to remain at step 6.
After the decision, it became apparent that this was too much of a challenge with only 47% of step 6 clubs nationally fully meeting the G grade.
The FA then revised the ruling again saying that clubs who did not comply with the G grade by 31st March 2016 could remain at step 6 whilst there were vacancies but should any division become full of clubs who held a G grade, then those clubs without a G grade would be subject to relegation.
The situation was to be monitored and reviewed in March 2018 but every year since the ruling, those club without a G grade have been at risk.
Laugharne said to FootballinBracknell: “The Hellenic League did all they could to keep the club but the uncertainty meant we would be unable plan for the long term.
“I’ve been at Finch for a long time but the opportunity to stay and manage in Division 1 East at Henley came up and it was an offer I couldn’t turn down.”
This uncertainty around status will almost certainly affect other Hellenic League Division 1 sides with Chalfont Wasps and Wokingham & Emmbrook in similar situations – though the Sumas have planning permission for improvements at Lowther Road with work expected to get underway soon.
The Hellenic League have not commented on this matter as it is the FA’s NLS (National League System) who approve all promotion and relegation matters in non-league along with any reprieves and clubs being moved laterally and we understand that all of these issues will be resolved in the next fortnight.
Finchampstead FC would like to stress that the Hellenic League have been supportive and sympathetic throughout the process and have fought hard for one of their member clubs.